NEW YOEK-BASED Dr. David Levy, leader, global health care, at consulting firm Pricewaterhouse-Coopers, talks to Fortune India about the state of the health-care industry in a rapidly changing, IT-driven environment. Edited excerpts:
While most health professionals talk about an impending crisis in the global health-care system, you believe it is a turning point for the sector.
When people talk about crisis, they think of it is as big and bad. But that’s not how it is. Health care is finally becoming a part of the economy, which is reflected in three or four trends across the world. These trends show why health care is at a turning point.
Would you elaborate?
Since no two countries are identical, there are likely to be differences in emphasis, but the trends are the same. First, the dialogue between the public and private sectors is changing because they have realised they cannot do without each other. The public sector is looking at the private sector for efficiency and innovations. This is resulting in new models of public-private cooperation and financial innovations, and also in the adoption of best practices. Second, the sector is getting more automated—IT services are being used to run the supply chain, back offices, and front offices. Third, instead of the patient going to the hospital, health-care solutions are going to patients. Mobile health, too, will become part of the ecosystem in the next 10 years. The mobile phone will emerge as an important tool for delivering [health-care] information. Also, the advent of genome sequencing means that useless drugs will go out of the market because specialists will know how genes interact with the environment, resulting in a new way of looking at the body, the disease, and the cure.
How is India placed in terms of these new trends?
According to a Pricewaterhouse-Coopers survey, some of the most important innovations in mobile technologies have come from India and China, because they are under far greater pressure to deliver with few resources compared with well-funded institutions such as the National Health Services in Britain. In that sense, India is far ahead of the developed nations in mHealth [mobile health].
What is the best model of health care for a developing country such as India?
All I know is that the private sector works in a difficult regulatory environment and there’s a huge demand for faster, cheaper, and better health care. That’s where the private sector can help by bringing innovative models. Indian health care is trying to move from being a provider to becoming a facilitator. But there’s little clarity on it.
What are the challenges that the industry is facing?
One challenge is to find new models to finance health care for people at the bottom of the pyramid. The industry cannot depend on private equity because they are always looking at a 25% rate of return and an exit route. [So] it will have to tap long-term funds such as insurance. Getting the right kind of talent—doctors and nurses—is another challenge. Also, the industry has to become precision driven so that only necessary drugs are prescribed.
Do you believe that the hub-and-spoke model still works?
The hub-and-spoke model may look good in presentations, but whether it actually works is debatable. Our study has shown it doesn’t. This model has been replaced by the concept of networks [in many European nations].